A lot of us love hot weather. Unfortunately, pesky bugs like mosquitoes and ticks also love hot weather — and nibbling on people they can get close to. Their bites can result in itching, but bugs can also carry illnesses they can pass on to you.
In our part of the Upper Midwest, mosquitoes can carry and transmit diseases such as:
Ticks can spread:
What can we do about these bugs and their bites?
Why do mosquito bites itch? It’s because of our body’s immune system.
When mosquitoes bite, they’re not eating. They’re actually drawing blood from you to get an amino acid called isoleucine. They use this to help them produce more eggs than they could otherwise. (It’s the female that bites and causes the itching.)
The reality is, the mosquito would be better off biting a critter like a buffalo. They have more isoleucine in their blood. But as you look around your neighborhood, you’ll likely notice more people than buffalo, so you’re the feature on the mosquito’s menu.
Once the mosquito lands on your skin, it will use its feeding stylets to pierce your skin and find a blood vessel. To keep the blood flowing, the mosquito will inject you with specialized saliva that keeps your blood from clotting (an anticoagulant).
People who itch after a mosquito bite are having an allergic reaction to the anticoagulant in the saliva. When you get itchy, your immune system is releasing histamines to respond to your allergic reaction. And, there it is — an itchy red spot.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce mosquitoes’ nuisance around your family. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so dump water out of things in your yard that can catch and hold water. Turn them upside down if you can. Make sure water doesn’t stand in flowerpots.
Change water in kiddy pools at least once a week.
Since mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk, those are good times to:
Using a sunscreen outside is important, so use it along with repellent. Since you should reapply sunscreen more often than insect repellent, we suggest using separate sunscreen and repellent. Apply sunscreen first, then apply your insect repellent.
When you’re done outside, wash repellent off with soap and water.
If you end up with a bite, don’t scratch it. If you break the skin by scratching, an infection can develop. Instead:
An antibacterial is not needed for typical insect bites. If an infection develops, check with your health care provider.
While mosquitoes don’t use your blood for nourishment, ticks do. You can reduce your chances of being the tick’s next meal by taking some precautions, especially when in the tick’s natural habitat — woods, bushes and high grasses. To protect your family:
We’ll start by dispelling some old myths. DO NOT use a hot match, petroleum jelly or fingernail polish to remove the tick. Here’s what you should do:
After a bug bite, if you or a family member gets sick or sees a rash or swelling that doesn’t go away after a day or two, see your health care professional. It will be helpful for your provider if you can explain where and when you think the bite happened and what may have bitten you.